Review: ‘The Glow’

An extramarital weekend in the country turns metaphysical in Israeli helmer Igal Bursztyn's sci-fi allegory "The Glow." Parable takes place in an Israel so riddled with xenophobic paranoia that it has lost sight of its soul. Wavering uneasily between social realism and poetic abstraction, "Glow" founders under the weight of its didacticism.

An extramarital weekend in the country turns metaphysical in veteran Israeli helmer Igal Bursztyn’s sci-fi allegory “The Glow.” Parable takes place in an Israel so riddled with xenophobic paranoia that it has lost sight of its soul (as represented by two black-robed, shaved-headed angels mistaken for Georgians). Wavering uneasily between social realism and poetic abstraction, “Glow” founders under the weight of its didacticism. Stateside release, even on cable, seems improbable.

A middle-aged ex-general turned influential munitions dealer (Asi Dayan) takes his young Maimonides-reading mistress (Tinkerbell) to meet old friends at their house in the countryside, which is under a terrorist alert. Pic opens well, with the usual disregarded heralds of doom (cell phones going dead, the radio emitting eerie electronic sounds, friends absent, the house deserted) layering and counterpointing the class, sexual and generational conflicts.

As things get weird and a strange glow moves across the landscape, Tinkerbell is the only one to think it might be extraterrestrials rather than Arab aliens. She alone sees a couple of guys who appear and disappear at will in front of her.

Though in tone and thrust the pic feels like a ’50s sci-fi cold-war allegory, stylistically it owes more to recent Japanese horror pics Unfortunately, veteran helmer Igal Bursztyn has little feel for the horror genre, carefully setting up a strangely behaving dog or dysfunctional radio only to brush them aside with the next influx of symbols.

Bursztyn fails to tie together the various alien “happenings,” either logically or lyrically. He appears more concerned with contemporary Israel’s mob-violence mentality, laid out with sledgehammer insistence, as secular Jews turn on religious Jews (and vice versa) and frightened women hack the wings off angels.

Tech credits are OK, with Giora Bihk’s realistic lensing firmly rooted in the dusty roads and foliage or fixed on Tinkerbell’s freckles, with any sense of otherworldliness largely confined to the soundtrack.

The Glow

Israel

Production

This review was updated on April 2, 2003. An ICP (Israel Cable Programming)/Cinema Post-Production production. Produced by Eyal Shirai. Directed, written by Igal Bursztyn.

Crew

Camera (color), Giora Bikh; editor, Era Lapid; music Josef Bardanashvili; sound, Gil Toren. Reviewed at New Directors/New Films Festival, New York, March 17, 2003. Running time: 86 MIN.

With

Tinkerbell, Asi Dayan, Rivka Michaeli, Yair Rubin. (Hebrew, English dialogue.)
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